In my youth museums meant old buildings that commanded silence and obedience. As I gained in curiosity this notion expanded to being transported to a world once only seen on the pages of encyclopedias. Walking under the fossil bones of creatures who no longer inhabit this earth opened my eyes to the wonder of museums and I’ve not looked back since. Museums are classrooms of topics and time periods that would perhaps lay undiscovered to us had we not stumbled into these buildings that often carry their own unique history.
Taipei, like most cities, houses countless museums. Whether it be the first museum to collect miniatures in Asia that takes your fancy or if you wish to delve into the world of Taiyuan puppet theater, Taipei has it all. Ancient artifacts, modern art, motion graphics and traditional crafts are all accessible in Taipei. If your time here is short and you want to wander through museums at your own pace rather than rush through a check list, the two I recommend are The National Palace Museum and The National Taiwan Museum.
The National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum as a piece of architecture is just as grand as the collection of artifacts that it holds. The museum is home to the largest collection of Chinese art. It’s vast collection includes paintings, calligraphy, ceramics and jade objects. Much of the collection is on rotation but some of the most popular items are always on display and include the famous Jade Cabbage.
One of the most appealing aspects of this museum is the historical range of its collection. Even within a single category the pieces range over multiple dynasties. It is not just artwork on display here but the culture of the people it belongs to. Originally founded in 1925 in the Forbidden City in Beijing, the museum moved its collection in light of the impending Japanese invasion. After several locations the collection became firmly rooted in Taiwan and has been here for more than 60 years. No matter the age of the artifact presented, each carries a story.
The National Taiwan Museum
The National Taiwan museum was established in 1908 and is the oldest museum in Taiwan. It’s location is in 228 Peace Park. The museum is the only museum built in Japanese colonial era that, after wars and changes in government, remains open at its original site. Upon entering the museum you will find yourself in an elegant Renaissance-style hall making for quite a mix in style between the exterior and interior styles. All part of this museums charm.
As with The National Palace Museum, there are permanent collections that are home to the National Taiwan Museum. There are also special collections that exhibit here and I was lucky enough to catch the Exquisite Stones of Formosa exhibit. This exhibition showcases the extraordinary collaboration of nature and artist to produce exquisite literary works on stone for decoration. These stones look like ink paintings of China’s stunning landscapes with vibrant colors that create depth on the smooth surfaces.
Across the road stands another example of hybrid architecture. Gliding between 13 stout columns you can observe the blend of classical western and traditional Taiwanese pavilion style design elements of this grand building. Here is the Land Bank Exhibition Hall which is included in the ticket price of the National Taiwan Museum. It is the largest exhibition space of northern Taiwan dedicated to paleo-organisms. There are permanent exhibitions in evolution and architecture, history and ethnic groups and Taiwan’s bio-diversity.
If those museums don’t sound appealing to you you won’t have to go far to come across another. Taipei is a city that presents a perfect example of art and culture. But from one museum lover to another, I promise the museums listed will not disappoint and are but a fraction of what is on offer here in Taipei.